People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny has asked the Minister for Social Protection to explain the abnormally high level of inspections of applicants for One Parent Family payments by her department
A recent report by Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) showed a high review intensity of One Parent Family Payment and Working Family Payment. Both payments are mostly paid out to women and a large percentage of Working Family Payment claimants would be lone parents.
The report also showed that both schemes had less than 5% over payments and were low in comparison to any other social welfare payments. However, despite this evidence, lone parents were subjected to a more intense review of their payment.
Gino Kenny TD has requested information about the number of complaints to the Department of Social Protection made by claimants. However, he fears this may not give a true picture as most people are afraid to complain out of fear that they will be cut off their payment.
Gino Kenny TD said: “This intense review for many lone parents amounts to ongoing harassment, unnecessary house visits, and often bizarre and impossible paperwork requests to continue on a payment. Single mothers became the scapegoat after the last recession, with false claims by Government Ministers and TDs about fraud in the Department Social of Protection to justify cuts to the One Parent Family Payment. These false claims were later exposed to be nothing but stereotyping and not based on any factual evidence, but the result was the poorest group in our society was hit the hardest.
“Anecdotal evidence to myself, and campaign groups like SPARK, suggest that lone parents have seen increased harassment in review requests, and I fear they may be the target of social welfare during the Covid pandemic. I am calling for a review of how the Department of Social Protection assesses lone parent claimants. The poverty rates in one parent households is a sad reflection of how we treat single mothers in this country, and this is compounded with living in fear of social welfare cuts.”
The TD added that the overzealous approach of the Department to a vulnerable group was in stark contrast to the lack of scrutiny or inspections in areas such as workplace safety or compliance with Covid guidelines in many businesses.